2017 LRC World & US Rankings, M 800: Nijel Amos is Your World #1; U.S. Champ Donavan Brazier is Top American

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By LetsRun.com
December 21, 2017

With few professional events on the running calendar until 2018, LetsRun.com is once again rolling out its year-end rankings of the mid-d and distance events (2014 rankings here; 2015 rankings here; 2016 rankings here). From now until the end of the year, we’ll be ranking the top 10 men and women in the world (plus the top five Americans) in the 800, 1500/mile, 3000 steeplechase, 3,000/5,000 and marathon. We hope you enjoy reading these rankings as much as we enjoyed putting them together.

Since these rankings are obviously subjective, we’ll lay out the criteria we’re using for them:

  • An emphasis on performance in big races. How the athlete fared at the World Championships is obviously a major consideration but winning gold doesn’t guarantee that an athlete will earn a #1 ranking. For U.S. athletes, their performance at the U.S. championships also factors heavily in the rankings.
  • Big meet success with the Diamond League receiving emphasis.
  • Season-best times matter, and if an athlete has a bunch of fast performances, they’re more likely to be ranked highly.
  • Runners who specialized in one event will be considered for other events but can be penalized in the rankings for not running enough races.
  • Indoor races will be considered and can help an athlete’s ranking.

LRC 2016 men’s 800 rankings * LRC All 2017 Year-End Rankings * LRC 2017 World Championship 800 Recap Pierre-Ambroise Bosse Pulls Off Upset and Wins Men’s 800 Title At 2017 World Track and Field Championships

World Rankings

The 800 is known for being one of the wildest events in track and field, and that was certainly the case at this year’s World Championships in London. The eventual world champion, Pierre-Ambroise Bosse of France, was a time qualifier to the final, which turned out to be the only race he won all year. Brit Kyle Langford, a guy nobody had heard of before Worlds, finished 4th, ahead of favorite Nijel Amos and just .04 out of a medal. And reigning world/Olympic champion David Rudisha could not even make it to London to defend his title, withdrawing with a thigh injury. Here’s how crazy the event was this year: only one 2016 Olympic finalist (Bosse) made it back to the final at Worlds one year later. Some would argue that “crappy,” not “crazy,” would be the world to describe the men’s 800 in London, and it’s true that the event was down compared to the Olympics. But we’d advise those critics to listen to what 2015/2017 silver medalist Adam Kszczot told us in London.

“Do you know how hard it is?” Kszczot said. “Not many people did it before, having two medals in 800 world champs. People hate 800 athletes because it’s such a lottery, such a gamble, to run to win, to be a medalist, to fight for finals, semifinals. Everything, every little step [has] to be well done, well prepared to be in such a position and to be such a lucky guy like me.”

From a U.S. perspective, 2017 represented a big breakthrough for 20-year-old Donavan Brazier, who won his first U.S. title and showed that he can contend with the best in the world on the Diamond League circuit. Brazier did not make the final in London, but his future remains bright. His World Championship teammates, Isaiah Harris and Drew Windle, also made progress this year, and when you add in World Indoor champ Boris Berian and Olympic medalist Clayton Murphy to the mix, the 800 should be an exciting event for years to come; Windle, at 25, is the oldest of the bunch.

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1. Nijel Amos • Botswana • 23 years old • 1:43.18 sb (#2) • Diamond League champion • 5th at Worlds

DL results: 11th Rome, 1st Paris, 1st London, 1st Rabat, 1st Birmingham, 1st Brussels (DL final)

Amos lost two 800s this year. In the first, in Rome on June 8, Amos fell during the race. There was no excuse for the second, his fifth-place finish at the World Championship. Amos entered Worlds on the back of wins in Paris, London, and Rabat, and once world leader Emmanuel Korir was eliminated in the semis, he became the favorite to win his first world title. Yet despite being in medal position coming off the final turn, Amos faded down the homestretch and could manage only fifth — still better than his showings at the 2015 Worlds and 2016 Olympics, where he failed to make the final on both occasions.

After Worlds, Amos returned to the Diamond League circuit and won Birmingham as well as the final in Brussels. Overall, his move to the Oregon Track Club this year was a rousing success, as Amos shook off a rough 2016 by returning to the form that made him our World #1 in 2014. But it’s hard to be satisfied as a World #1 without a gold medal, especially this year, when the world title was there for the taking. Amos will have the chance to defend his Commonwealth Games title in April, but he’ll have to wait a long time for another shot at that elusive global gold.

2. Emmanuel Korir • Kenya • 22 years old • 1:43.10 sb (world leader) • World Championship semis • NCAA indoor/outdoor champion

DL results: 1st Monaco

Emmanuel Korir began 2017 as an anonymous runner but finished it as one of the most exciting young talents in middle-distance running. It began with an indoor world record of 1:14.97 at 600 meters on January 20, and continued through NCAA titles indoors and outdoors under the guidance of 1988 Olympic champion Paul Ereng at UTEP. After winning those NCAA titles and becoming just the second collegian to break 1:44, Korir turned pro after just one year in El Paso and showed that he could match up with the world’s best by winning the Kenyan Trials and then running a world-leading 1:43.10 to get a dominant win in Monaco. He ended the year with three of the world’s five fastest times on the year.

Unfortunately for Korir, he picked up an injury during the first round at Worlds that led to him exiting in the semifinals. Fortunately for him — and anyone who is a fan of the 800 — Korir should only continue to improve as he gains more experience racing the world’s best.

3. Kipyegon Bett • Kenya • 19 years old • 1:44.04 sb (#6) • World Championship bronze

DL results: 1st Shanghai, 2nd Rome, 2nd Paris, 2nd Rabat, 4th Brussels (DL final)

Bett flashed his potential last year, winning the World U20 title and finishing second in the Diamond League final, and he was even better in 2017. Though Bett did not PR, he ran four of the world’s top 14 times on the year and was a consistent threat to win in every race he entered, placing first or second in six of his eight finals, and never lower than fourth.

4. Adam Kszczot • Poland • 28 years old • 1:44.84 sb (#22) • World Championship silver • European indoor champion

DL results: 6th Shanghai, 1st Rome, 4th Stockholm, 6th London, 2nd Birmingham, 3rd Brussels (DL final)

Kszczot’s SB of 1:44.84 only puts him 22nd on the 2017 world list, and apart from a win in Rome, his early-season outdoor results weren’t particularly impressive. But he had a terrific end to the season, going 2nd-2nd-3rd at Worlds-Birmingham-Brussels and was terrific indoors, winning five of his six races, including the European indoor title (his 1:46.17 indoor SB was also #2 in the world this year).

Kszczot’s kick can be devastating, and he’s a threat to win any race that he lines up for. For the second Worlds in a row, he waited a little too long to make his final move, but for the second Worlds in a row, he wound up with the silver medal, a very impressive accomplishment. At 28, he’s now one of the older guys on the circuit, but he remains among the world’s best. Kszczot versus Bosse at next year’s European Championships in Berlin should be a lot of fun, as Kszczot goes for his third straight European title.

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5. Pierre-Ambroise Bosse • France • 25 years old • 1:44.67 sb (#16) • World champion

DL results: 7th Paris, 4th Monaco

Fifth may seem low for the world champion, but if you remove Bosse’s London result from his record and there’s no way he’d even be on this list. That is not Bosse’s fault. An Achilles injury put him well behind schedule as he missed a good chunk of training in the winter and spring, and as a result he raced only three times outside of Worlds (never finishing higher than fourth), improving from 1:46 in his season opener on June 28 to 1:45 on July 1 and 1:44 on July 21. Turns out, he didn’t have to run any faster than that to win gold as despite an honest first lap (50.78), Bosse (1:44.67) and Kszczot (1:44.95) were the only men to break 1:45 in the World Championship final. You could argue that Bosse ran a better race when he took fourth in Rio last year (1:43.41) but with none of the Olympic medalists competing in London, he didn’t need to be as good this time around. However, it was the disappointment of failing to medal at the Olympics that led him to switch coaches this year to Alain Lignier, and the new marriage clearly paid off at Worlds.

6. Brandon McBride • Canada • 23 years old • 1:44.41 sb (#8) • 8th at Worlds

DL results: 8th Shanghai, 6th Rome, 4th Rabat, 2nd Monaco, 4th Birmingham

McBride, an NCAA star at Mississippi State, flourished in his first full year as a pro, making it all the way to the World Championship final after being eliminated in the Olympic semis last year. McBride has continued to employ the same front-running tactics that carried him to two NCAA titles and is unafraid to take it out against the world’s best — he led Worlds at the bell. However, after running two semis and leading the first lap of the final, he ran out of steam in London and faded to last. If he can continue getting stronger — extra endurance world is what allowed him to go from 1:45 to 1:43 in 2016 — a medal could lie in his future some day.

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7. Donavan Brazier • USA • 20 years old • 1:43.95 sb (#5) • World Championship semis • U.S. outdoor champion

DL results: 3rd Rome, 2nd London, 3rd Rabat

Brazier’s talent was clear last year when he set a collegiate record of 1:43.55 to win NCAAs. And while none of his performances this year could match that one, as a whole, his 2017 season was better than his 2016 campaign. He won his first U.S. title just two months after his 20th birthday and finished in the top three in all three of his Diamond League races, in the process finishing the year as just one of five men who broke 1:44.

Tactically, Brazier is still a work in progress — remember, he needed a time qualifier just to advance to the semis at USAs — but he’s further along now than he was a year ago. Brazier is most comfortable in a fast race sitting just off the leader’s shoulder, allowing him to make the most of his speed without the pressure that comes with leading. But he showed in Rome that he can manage okay in slower races as well, negative-splitting his way to a third-place finish in 1:46.08 against a strong field. Ultimately, failing to make the final in London was a disappointment, but Brazier ran like a veteran in his first-round heat at Worlds and, despite being boxed in for much of his semi, was in position to make the final but could not hold onto the pace.

All in all, this was a strong year from Brazier. Not many runners can win a U.S. title and finish ranked seventh in the world at age 20.

LRC 2017 USATF Men’s 800: Donavan Brazier Finds Redemption To Win His First National Title with a Brilliant 1:44.14

8. Marcin Lewandowski • Poland • 30 years old • 1:44.77 sb (#17) • World Championship semis

DL results: 7th Shanghai, 5th Rome, 3rd Birmingham, 2nd Brussels (DL final)

Lewandowski had dabbled in the 1500 over the past few years, but the 800 had always remained the focus. This year, however, his races were split evenly between the two outdoors, and he actually wound up more successful at the longer distance, taking 7th at Worlds, than he did in the shorter one, where he failed to make the final. Lewandowski’s 1:44.77 sb was his slowest since 2008, but he ran well enough late in the season (3rd Birmingham, 2nd in the DL final in Brussels) to crack the top 10 in our rankings.

9. Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich • Kenya • 28 years old • 1:44.37 sb (#7) • World Championship semis

DL results: 3rd Shanghai, 10th Rome, 3rd Paris, 5th Rabat, 5th Brussels (DL final)

For Rotich, like many of the top men in the event, this was a down year. After finishing 5th in Rio and 4th at the 2015 Worlds, he failed to make the final in London, and his 1:44.37 sb was the slowest of his career (at least dating back to 2013, when his results began showing up on All-Athletics). Still, he was consistently decent on the Diamond League circuit, and in 2017, that’s enough to finish in our top 10.

10. Antoine Gakeme • Burundi • 26 years old • 1:44.44 sb (#10) • World Championship semis

DL results: 3rd Monaco

You could make the case for several guys in this spot. Kyle Langford was 4th at Worlds, but his 1:45.25 sb ranked him just 46th in the world, and he was pretty pedestrian outside of Worlds — he only finished third in the British champs. Brazil’s Thiago Andre was 7th at Worlds and won his other three 800s, but all three of those races were in South America against no serious competition. We’ll take Gakeme, the 2016 World Indoor silver medalist, whose 1:44.44 sb puts him #10 on the world list and who also ran 1:44.49 and 1:44.54 — times that were faster than anything Andre (1:44.81) or Langford (1:45.25) put up all year.

U.S. Rankings

1. Donavan Brazier (see above)

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2. Clayton Murphy • Nike Oregon Project • 22 years old • 1:43.60 sb (#1 in US) • USA finalist (DNS due to injury) • U.S. indoor champion (1000m)

Depending on what you value, Murphy could be as high as #2 on this list or as low as #5. We’re putting him at #2 because Murphy blasted a 1:43.60 at Mt. SAC in April that wound up as the U.S. leader, and a week later, he anchored the U.S. 4×800 to gold at the World Relays (we are factoring in the World Relays result), outkicking Kenya’s Ferguson Rotich in the process. Sub in Isaiah HarrisDrew Windle, or Erik Sowinski in that spot and the outcome is likely reversed. Murphy was also the U.S. champion indoors, though that came at 1000 meters, not 800.

3. Isaiah Harris • Penn State • 21 years old • 1:44.53 sb (#3 in US) • World Championship semis • 2nd at USAs • 2nd at outdoor NCAAs • 4th at indoor NCAAs

Harris was brilliant outdoors, going undefeated until NCAAs, where he was second to Emmanuel Korir of UTEP/Kenya. Considering Korir was one of the biggest 800 talents to ever come through the NCAA system, finishing second to him — and remember, Harris was actually gaining at the end of the race — is no shame. From there, Harris went on to finish second at USAs and fourth in his semifinal at Worlds, missing the final by two spots. Harris will be the favorite to win the 2018 NCAA title, and if he continues to progress in the same fashion as the past two years, he should get the job done.

4. Drew Windle • Brooks Beasts • 25 years old • 1:44.63 sb (#4 in US) • World Championship semis • 3rd at USAs

DL results: 4th Monaco

Windle broke out in a big way in 2017. A 2015 graduate of DII Ashland University, Windle spent his first full year in a pro in 2016 adjusting to his new training environment and the heightened level of competition. With that experience under his belt, his talent shone through in 2017 as he used kick to run down Erik Sowinski at USAs and make his first U.S. team. Windle was a respectable 5th in his semifinal at Worlds — something no one would have predicted at the start of the year — where he was simply outclassed by superior runners.

Still, this was a terrific year overall for the 25-year-old, whose job will get harder when Clayton Murphy and Boris Berian return next year.

5. Erik Sowinski • Nike • 27 years old • 1:44.66 sb (#5 in US) • 4th at USAs • USA indoor champion (600m)

DL results: 4th London, 7th Monaco, 9th Birmingham

Sowinski was the most consistent U.S. runner in 2017. Indoors, he ran four 800s, all between 1:46.80 and 1:46.96. Outdoors, he accounted for nine of the top 22 times by an American this year (no one else had more than four), running 1:45.51 or faster on nine occasions. Unfortunately for Sowinski, he could not raise his game when it mattered most. He ran a good race in the final at USAs to finish fourth (1:45.39) — the problem was, at that point in his career, he had only broken 1:45 twice in his life, and it took sub-1:45 to make the team (Sowinski would go on to break 1:45 twice in the span of four days in July).

You could argue that Sowinski’s consistency and his U.S. title indoors (at 600) deserve better than fifth in our rankings. But Windle was fourth in our rankings, and Windle had a faster sb and a 5-0 record against Sowinski this year. Fifth is fair.

LRC 2016 men’s 800 rankings * LRC All 2017 Year-End Rankings * LRC 2017 World Championship 800 Recap Pierre-Ambroise Bosse Pulls Off Upset and Wins Men’s 800 Title At 2017 World Track and Field Championships


What do you think of our rankings? Share your opinion here: 800 World Rankings Men: What do you think?

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